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    • Sunday service - Holy Communion February 5, 2023 at 9:30 am – 11:00 am Grace Church 215 Pleasant Street, Sheldon, VT Website: www.gracechurchsheldon.orgTime:  09:30 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)        Every week on Sun.Join Zoom Meetinghttps://us02web.zoom.us/j/83929911344?pwd=alZQTWZMN0ZkWFFPS1hmNjNkZkU2UT09Meeting ID: 839 2991 1344Password: Call for detailsOne tap mobile+13126266799,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (Chicago)+19294362866,,83929911344#,,1#,816603# US (New York)Dial by your location        +1 312 626 6799 US (Chicago)        +1 929 436 2866 US (New York)Meeting ID:…
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Pentecost 17 Proper 21A September 27, 2020

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21:23-32

In our opening reading, we join the people of God on their long journey in the wilderness. Like us in our journey with Covid-19, they are filled with uncertainty. They seem to confront one problem after another. Last week they had no food. This week, they are thirsty.

They ask Moses for water. He asks them why they are quarreling with him and why they are testing God. They complain more loudly. “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst?”

Moses cries out to God. “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me?” God is right there to help. He tells Moses to take the staff which he used to part the waters of the Red Sea. And God does something very wise. God instructs Moses to take some of the elders with him. Moses is carrying a heavy burden of responsibility, and God wants Moses to share that burden and responsibility of leadership with others. God goes before them and is waiting when they arrive. So often, on our journeys, God is there to help before we even realize we need help. God tells Moses to strike the rock of Horeb with the staff and water pours out. Moses calls the place Massah and Meribah, meaning “test,” the place where the people tested God, and “quarrel.” the place where the people quarreled with God and Moses.

God is always present with us. God gives the people and livestock the water they need to survive. The journey from slavery into freedom is not easy. Without God’s  help, the people might have turned back.

In our second reading, Paul is writing from prison to his beloved Philippians. This is not a new congregation. Paul has had a caring mutual relationship with them over several years. Scholars tell us that some conflicts have arisen within the congregation, and they are also facing challenges from outside. Just as with God’s people in the wilderness, there are challenges.

Paul calls the people to”be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.”

He calls us to focus not on our own interests but on the interests of others. This is so contrary to the values we see in our world, where so many people think only of themselves and their needs. But we as Christians as called to love others as we love ourselves, and to treat others as we want to be treated.

Paul calls us to have the same mind as Jesus had. This reminds us of our diocesan mission statement which says that we are called to “Pray the prayer of Christ, learn the mind of Christ, and do the deeds of Christ.” We are called to be one with Christ. We are called to be as much like our Lord as we possibly can, with God’s help.

In our gospel for today, Jesus has come into Jerusalem and he has cleansed the temple. The religious authorities are asking him by whose authority he is teaching and preaching and healing people. The inability of these leaders to realize that our Lord was doing God’s work is tragic. They simply cannot recognize spiritual authority when they see it.  Jesus asks them a question, “Did the baptism of John come from heaven or was it of human origin?” The leaders are caught in a political bind. So they say they do not know.

Then Jesus tells the parable about the two sons. The father asks the first one to go and work in the vineyard. The son says he won’t do it  but then he changes his mind and goes to work.  The other son says “Yes, Sir, I’ll go,” but then he doesn’t go and work in the vineyard.

Jesus asks the leaders which one did the will of his father. They answer, the first. And Jesus says that the tax collectors and prostitutes will go into the kingdom of heaven before these leaders.

The tax collectors and prostitutes can see who Jesus really is. They are not the powerful or highly respected members of society, but they are following him. They are trying to lead lives of compassion.

Jesus has such a powerful message to share. He talks about the last being first and the first being last. The religious leaders do not recognize who he is. They have no understanding of what he is about. But the folks whom people despise and look down on have no problem seeing that Jesus is God walking the face of the earth. And his message makes so much sense to them that they follow wherever he leads and they try to model their lives on his teaching.

What are these readings telling us? The journey to freedom and wholeness is not easy. Sometimes it is all we can do to put one foot in front of the other. This is definitely true during this Covid journey. God is with us, God hears us, and God takes care of us.

Our reading from Paul is calling us to be one in Christ, to be on the journey of growing more and more into the likeness of Christ, both individually and corporately, so that his love and forgiveness and healing are with us always, leading us to be a community of hope and reconciliation. 

Our gospel reading echoes that old saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” We can hear people say flowery things which sound good, but, if the actions don’t match the words, we need to look at the actions, and they tell us the truth of the situation. And we are called to be congruent people. Our actions need to reflect our beliefs. As we know, this is possible only with the gift of God’s grace. 

All of our readings today call us to remember that God loves us and is with us. No matter how challenging our journey is, we can trust in God to lead us and help us, and we can have genuine hope that with God’s help, we can and will be God’s loving, faithful, hopeful people, sharing God’s caring and compassion with each other and with our neighbors.

O God, you declare your mighty power chiefly by showing mercy and pity. Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever,  Amen.

Pentecost 17 Proper 21 A RCL October 1, 2017

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 78:1-4, 12-16
Philippians 2:1-13
Matthew 21:23-32

In our opening reading for today, the people have no water to drink. They complain to Moses, who brings the problem to God. Immediately, God provides water for the people. This reading reminds us that God provides for our needs. I know that we are all praying that food and water and essential supplies will reach our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico as soon as possible.

Our passage from Paul’s letter to his beloved congregation in Philippi gives us a powerful description of the way to be a Christ-centered community of faith. Paul calls us to “be of the same mind.” In our diocesan Mission Statement, we say that we are called to “pray the prayer of Christ, seek the mind of Christ, and do the deeds of Christ.” We are called to be of one mind, and that mind is the mind of Christ.

This means that we are daily seeking in prayer to know the will of our Lord and to do his will. We are of one mind, his mind, because we are one Body, his body.

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.” What a striking difference from the arrogance and narcissism rampant in our culture. If we defer to each other, if we are not competing with each other, what a difference that makes in a community.

“Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” This would mean that we are not focused on ourselves but on others. We are not trying to climb the ladder of success or make all the money we can. We are thinking of the needs of others.

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness.” Our Lord came among us as a servant of all. He called us to be servants. Because our Lord poured himself out in love for us, we worship him and we follow him. We try to be like him.

Paul then calls us to “work out [our] own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in [us], enabling [us] both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Paul is calling us to continue our journey with Christ, knowing that we will never be perfect as he is, but nonetheless knowing that the Holy Spirit is at work in us, energizing us to be people of love and compassion, people who reach out to those in need, servant people who care about others.

In today’s gospel, Jesus is in the temple in Jerusalem.  The chief priests and elders, the very people who should be seeing the truth of who Jesus is, come to challenge him, asking him by whose authority he is teaching and ministering. It is such a shame to see tyranny pretending to be true authority, and this reminds us of David Brown’s distinction between authority, auctoritas, authorship, creativity, and imperium, tyranny, control beating down the creativity of the people.

Jesus stumps them with his answer, and they are caught between a rock and a hard place. They try to come up with an answer and they realize they should simply say they do not know.

Then Jesus tells the parable about the two sons. The father asks the first son to go out and work in the vineyard. The son says he won’t do it, but later he changes his mind and goes to work. The second says “Yes, Sir,” but he never goes out into the vineyard.

One thing this parable tells us is that it is our actions that count. We can say all kinds of wonderful and flowery things, but, if our actions are not in harmony with what we say, it’s all just flowery words. If we want to find out where someone truly stands, we have to watch that person’s actions. Do they do what they say they are going to do?

The first son said No, but then that No turned to Yes. He went out into the vineyard and worked. The second son politely said, Yes, Sir,” but his actions were the opposite of his words.

Are we congruent? Do we have integrity? Do our actions match with our words? Do our lives reflect our beliefs? Jesus tells these religious leaders that the tax collectors and prostitutes will be first in his kingdom. They are the ones who are living in harmony with his gospel of compassion and service. As Lisa Ransom says, Jesus is turning the world right side up. The last shall be first and the first last.

Jesus is our model for authority—auctoritas. He has true, authentic authority. He is among us as one who serves. He empowers people. He frees up their creativity. He helps people fly like eagles. He does not hold them down and imprison them.

Last Sunday, Kim Erno talked about Paulo Freire and his Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Paulo Freire says that teaching and learning do not go just one way—from the teacher to the learner. He says that we learn from each other.  That is what Jesus did. He let the oppressed teach him. He learned from a Canaanite woman that his ministry was to all people. He called a tax collector to be one of his apostles.

When our Lord calls us to go out into his vineyard, that is the world, and do his work, I think we are going to say Yes and then we are going to match our actions with that Yes. We are going to go out into his vineyard and work for his kingdom, his shalom. May we follow him wherever he leads. Amen.

Lent 3 Year A March 19, 2017

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

In his meditation for the first week in Lent, Brother Mark Brown described the forty days of Lent as an opportunity for Jesus to absorb God’s love. In the gospel of Mark, God says to Jesus, “You are my beloved. With you I am well pleased. I delight in you.”

Lent is also a time for each of us to absorb God’s love for us. This Lent, I am inviting us to focus on the gospel for each Sunday because each of these gospel accounts shows us Jesus meeting someone, and each of these encounters shows Jesus’ love for the people he meets.

This Sunday, we have an extraordinary story of Jesus’ understanding and love for us. Our Lord is in Samaria. As we know from the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, the people of Samaria were viewed as inferior. They did not worship in the right way or in the right place. Yet Jesus is going into their territory because he loves everyone and he wants to reach out to everyone.

Jesus comes to Jacob’s well. He is tired. He sits down to rest. A Samaritan woman comes to the well to draw water. Jews did not share  things in common with Samaritans. Rabbis did not speak with women. Yet Jesus asks this woman for a drink.

The woman asks Jesus how he can think of asking her for a drink? Doesn’t he know about proper customs and manners? And then Jesus does the same thing he did with Nicodemus. He throws her a mystery. If you knew how much God loves you and who I am, you would ask me for living water.

Now the woman is really interested. Living water? Maybe I would’t have to come to this well every day and lower this bucket and lug it back home and do the same thing several times a day.

But then she wonders, “You don’t even have a bucket. Where do you get this living water?”  She is beginning to wonder if this man is either crazy or greater than even Jacob. Then Jesus makes another quantum leap of the mind and spirit. “When we drink this water, we get thirsty again. But the living water that I give gushes up to eternal life.”

The woman wants that living water. Jesus asks her to call her husband and come back. This touches upon a very delicate issue, The woman has had five husbands and she is living with a man to whom she is not married. In the eyes of the average person, she is looked down upon. She is not considered very respectable. Jesus knows all this, but these outward things are not important to him. He loves this woman. In his actions to her and to all of us, he is saying, “You are my beloved child.”

I think the woman senses this. Jesus is God walking the face of the earth. He has reached across so many barriers to talk with this woman, barriers of race and religion and custom. She can sense the love in all these actions. When we know that God loves us, we can be honest about even the most painful things in our lives. She tells the truth, “I have no husband.” Jesus tells her that he knows her situation.

Now this woman is thinking that Jesus must be a prophet. She asks him about a burning theological issue. The proper place to worship is the temple in Jerusalem. The Samaritans do not worship there. So she asks this prophet, this highly respected expert, “Where should we worship?” Jesus says that we should worship in spirit and in truth. Where we worship is not the important thing. Are we worshipping the spiritual reality of God and God’s love?

Now the woman makes a quantum leap. Maybe this man is more than a prophet. She begins to talk about the messiah. He says that is who he is. He tells her she is speaking face to face with the messiah.

This wonderful courageous woman who has just had a conversation with the Savior drops her bucket, runs into the city, and proclaims the Good News. She becomes the first preacher of the gospel.

And what does she tell the people? Come and see a man who told me everything I have done.” Come and meet with our God who comes down to our level, who knows all our strengths and weaknesses, knows all the secrets we are afraid to share, knows all the things that make us the most ashamed, and loves us with a love that nothing can stop, nothing can change.

Back in those days, a woman was supposed to be married, That is how she achieved an identity in the society—as a wife and a mother. She was not supposed to live with a man who was not her husband. Many people of that time would consider her a terrible sinner. God does not see her in that way.  When God calls Samuel to go to the home of Jesse and anoint the next king, God reminds Samuel that God does not see as humans see. God looks at each of us and says exactly what God said to Jesus at his baptism, “You are my beloved. I delight in you.”

In her dialogue with Jesus, this woman did a self-examination and made a confession to Jesus. She was honest. I think she was able to be honest because she sensed the love and respect of our Lord. As we do our work of self-examination, repentance, and metanoia, transformation, this Lent, our awareness of God’s love helps us to know that whatever we need to confess to God and work on with God’s help is going to be received with caring and forgiveness and encouragement, not condemnation.

This woman brought many people to meet Jesus. Her encounter with our loving and healing God welcomed many others to experience God’s love and forgiveness. May we, too, experience and share God’s love. Amen.

Lent 3A RCL March 23, 2014

Exodus 17:1-7
Psalm 95
Romans 5:1-11
John 4:5-42

One of the themes of Lent is that we are journeying with God’s people.We are on our own journey from slavery in Egypt to a new life in the promised land. Our slavery might not have involved making bricks for the pharaoh, but it might have involved thinking that nothing we do is ever good enough, or it might involve thinking that we don’t deserve God’s love or the love of other people, or that we have not succeeded in our lives; we have not achieved enough or we have not made enough money or we have not done the right kind of work or made the right decisions. Possibly we have suffered the slavery of some kind of addiction. There are so many forms of slavery.

This morning, as we read our opening lesson, we are reminded that change is not easy and that the journey to the promised land is fraught with conflict. God’s people are complaining to Moses, “There isn’t any water.” At other times on the journey they complain that there isn’t any food, They think back to the wonderful leeks and melons and other foods that they had in Egypt and they forget that they were making bricks. But today, the issue is water. The people are desperate and they are angry, and Moses is not exactly serene in the midst of this. He calls out to God. He is probably groaning. “What shall I do with this people?” He thinks they are ready to kill him. They are so frustrated. God tells Moses to go ahead of the people. But God does not tell Moses to go alone. God advises Moses to take some of the elders with him.

Theologian Urban Holmes talks about spiritual leaders as trail guides, people who know all the good water holes out in the desert, people who know the best routes, in other words, people who have made the journey many times and can save us from falling into all the potholes. They go out in front, not in an arrogant way or a showy way. They go out in front the way Jesus did and the way all good shepherds do, to lead the sheep in the right path. There is something reassuring about having the leader out in front. But the leader does not go alone. The leader goes with a team. The elders. And the leader takes the staff, the symbol of leadership, and, at God’s command, strikes the rock and the water comes out.

In our gospel, we have an extraordinary encounter. Jesus goes into Samaria, an area usually avoided by Jewish travelers. He is tired. It is so important for us to keep in mind that Jesus was fully human. He got tired. He asks a Samaritan woman for a drink of water. Jews didn’t talk to Samaritans. Rabbis didn’t talk to women. Jesus is reaching over centuries of barriers in this encounter.

Jesus asks for a drink. He doesn’t even have a bucket to draw with. Then he begins to talk about living water, and the woman thinks how wonderful it would be to have a water supply that never ran out so that she wouldn’t have to come to this well every day.

Then Jesus asks her to call her husband, and she tells a truth which was shameful in those days. She has no husband. Jesus knows this already. He tells her that she has had five husbands and she is not married to the man she is with now. Some prophets or teachers would think that’s a disgrace. Not Jesus. He does not shrink away from her in disgust. He looks into her eyes with acceptance, love, and forgiveness. That is exactly how Jesus looks at you and me.

The woman senses something about Jesus and she asks a theological question. Should we worship in the temple in Jerusalem, as the Jews say we should, or on Mt. Gerizim, as the Samaritans say we should? Jesus tells us that it is not the place that is important; it’s the attitude with which we worship.

I think the woman has an intuitive sense of who Jesus is, and that prompts her to ask about the messiah. And Jesus gives her a great gift: he tells her who he is. He entrusts that truth to this woman who is living in what some people would call sinful circumstances, this woman who is also a seeker after truth.

The woman becomes the first preacher of the good news. She goes into the city and tells people about Jesus, and they come to see for themselves. The text tells us that “many believed because of her testimony.”

In our epistle, Paul writes something so profound that we could meditate on it for years: “…suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” We have all known people who have suffered and gained endurance through that suffering, people whose characters have been shaped and strengthened by that endurance until all of their experience is tempered by fire and ice into hope. I think Jesus saw that process in this Samaritan woman, and I think that is why he entrusted the gospel to her.

What does all of this mean to us today? We are on a journey, and when we hear God’s people complaining and see Moses getting frustrated, it reminds us that we are not alone. Even God’s chosen people had difficulty. The journey is not easy.

Here at Grace, we don’t have one leader; we are a leadership team. Everyone offers his or her gifts. Jesus is our leader.

Our Lord went places that others did not go, and he reached out to people others would look down on. He saw the potential in this woman. He saw her as what she was, a precious and gifted child of God. He told her the truth about himself, and she shared that truth in a way that was convincing enough that many people came out from the city and followed Jesus.

Our Lord sees the gifts of the most unlikely people and gives them the grace to use those gifts. He can and does use us to share the good news every day.

This is our model—team ministry and compassionate ministry which sees the potential of every person. And, as we walk the Way of the Cross, we remember Paul’s profound progression: suffering leads to endurance; endurance leads to character; character leads to hope, and all because of God’s love poured out for us.

May we continue to walk the Way of the Cross, remembering God’s unfailing love for each of us and for all of us. Amen.